Coin treasure troves, a chess piece and an arrowhead: Moscow's archaeological finds of 2019

November 29, 2019

Ceramic shards, an arrowhead and a mammoth tusk figurine

Fragments of a clay vessel were the most ancient finds of this year. Experts date them back to the Neolithic, 4000–3500 BC.

About a dozen small shards of pit-comb ceramics, 2 to 5 cm each, have been extracted from a 4 m deep excavation site. Pit-comb is a special way of decorating items that look like prints of ridges or small pits.

Earlier, specialists have found a flint arrowhead in the same place. It also dates back to the Neolithic.

Another interesting find was part of a mammoth tusk figurine. It could be a home decoration or a chess piece.  Most likely, it was made in the 18th century, such things were fashionable among wealthy noble families. But its material has an earlier origin.

A chess piece, traces of a foundry and a wooden cross

In September, archaeologists found a bone chess piece in Ostozhenka Street. Experts believe it to be a bishop from a chess set of the 17th-18th centuries.  Most likely, it belonged to some local residents. At that time, some noble families and small traders, craftsmen, minor civil servants and employees lived in Ostozhenka Street.

Archaeologists found an ancient chess piece in Ostozhenka

A month earlier, experts discovered traces of a small foundry, which was located near Sretenka Street in the 17th — early 18th century. Archaeologists unearthed fragments of a water tank (a large wooden barrel), and craft tools.  These are two ceramic crucibles, special pots used for primary smelting of metal from ore, and part of a stone mould. Most likely, they were used to manufacture cross pendants.

'Artefacts with distinctive signs of different professions are of the greatest interest. In particular, in June, experts found a street cleaner's metal badge of the late 19th century on Serebryanicheskaya Embankment. Such badges were common in Moscow, but they are rarely found during excavations. The unique item has survived only partially. Its fragment has an inscription: 'CLEANER No.4 Nilov'. In May, a 19th century revolver and a militia cap badge of the early 20th century were found in Dolgorukovskaya Street,' said  Head of the Moscow Cultural Heritage Department Alexei Yemelyanov.

Late in August, a well-preserved old wooden cross pendant dating back to the late 17th — early 18th century was discovered. It is a very rare artefact, as wood is poorly preserved in soil.  Most often, archaeologists find copper, silver, gold or stone crosses.

It has a crucifix carved on the front and a figure of St. Sergius of Radonezh, one of the most revered saints of the Russian Orthodox Church, on the back. 

One of cross blades seems to be repaired once, as there is a piece of wire holding broken parts together. This suggests that the owner valued the cross a lot. The front, which was in contact with clothes, wore off.  But the reverse side represents the carving in great detail.

Treasure trove with coins dating back to the time of Nicholas II

The most important find of this year is a big trove of coins discovered in Kostyansky Pereulok.

'Traditionally, treasure troves of ancient coins are of great interest to specialists and citizens. This year's most important find is a big trove of coins dating back to the time of Nicholas II discovered in Kostyansky Pereulok. In early July, archaeologists found about sixty 5 and 10 rouble coins. The money dates back to the late 19th — early 20th centuries.  The treasure trove was discovered inside a tin box, only partly extant, while dismantling of a former building's basement,' said Alexei Yemelyanov.

Experts suggest that the coins were hidden there during the October Revolution or the Civil War. The treasure is worth about RUB 1 million, roughly estimated. This is one of the largest treasures discovered in Moscow in the last few years.

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In February, archaeologists found a treasure trove of 97 various silver and copper coins dating back to the 19th –20th centuries in Dolgorukovskaya Street. Experts suggest that a city resident hid it inside his flat’s wall on the first or second floor. The building was pulled down in the 1960s, and the coins were buried together with the debris. It appears that the trove was hidden inside one of the walls of the building during a financial crisis, triggered off by WWI. At that time, banknotes became depreciated, and people tried to hoard any metal coins they could get hold of.

In October and November, archaeologists discovered two more troves. 98 coins dating back to the reign of Peter the Great were found in Kostyansky Pereulok, stored in a ceramic vessel 1.5 m deep in the ground. 135 copper 0.5 to 5 kopeck coins were discovered on Sofiyskaya Embankment.



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